Sweden grants blanket asylum to Syrian refugees

Updated 04 September 2013

Sweden grants blanket asylum to Syrian refugees

STOCKHOLM: Sweden on Tuesday became the first European Union country to announce it will give asylum to all Syrian refugees who apply.
“All Syrian asylum seekers who apply for asylum in Sweden will get it,” Annie Hoernblad, the spokeswoman for Sweden’s migration agency, told AFP.
“The agency made this decision now because it believes the violence in Syria will not end in the near future.”
The decision, which will give refugees permanent resident status, is valid until further notice, added Hoernblad.
Until now, Sweden could only house refugees temporarily for three years, after each individual case was evaluated by the state.
The agency expects that the “vast majority of Syrian nationals who today have provisional status will apply for permanent status,” said Hoernblad.
Those granted permanent status will also be allowed to bring their families to Sweden.
The move came as the United Nations said the number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria had passed two million, which the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, called “the great tragedy of this century.”
Since 2012, Sweden has taken in some 14,700 asylum seekers from Syria.
Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billstroem called on other countries to recognize their duty to help the Syrian people.
“No other conflict on earth today is as terrible as the long and bloody conflict in Syria. That should make many politicians, inside and outside the EU, think about our responsibilities,” he told the Swedish tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet.
In 2012, Sweden received a total of 44,000 asylum requests, a 48-percent increase and the highest number since 1992, at the time of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
The figure included around 8,000 requests from Syrians.


‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 9 min 23 sec ago

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.

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